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Officials stress proper disposal of medications, syringes, sharps

August 7, 2019
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lee County Government and the Lee County Sheriff's Office have teamed up to assure that the public has the proper channels to dispose of expired prescriptions, medications, and used syringes and sharps.

Methods too often used to dispose of unwanted medications include throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet or down the sink.

According Caitlyn Mumma, Lee County Sheriff's Office spokesperson, neither of these options are the preferred recommendations listed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

"We are asking the public not to flush medications down the toilet or put them in the garbage. The medications can eventually find their way into nearby water sources. We offer safe, secure medication disposal lock-boxes at district substations and our headquarters," Mumma said. "We are encouraging the public to utilize these drop-offs."

The Lee County Sheriff's Office stresses the importance of removing any unwanted, and expired medications, and then safely disposing of them by utilizing an anonymous and secure lock box.

There are several prescription drug disposal sites in Lee County that are available to the public Monday through Friday during regular business hours. The closest drop-off for Lehigh Acres residents is at Lee County Sheriff's Department East District, 1301 Homestead Road North, Lehigh Acres.

All medications, including prescription and over the counter, must be sealed plastic bag.

Needles and other types of "sharps"are not accepted.

For more information, visit their website at

Syringes and sharp disposal

Sharps and syringes are another group of hazardous waste that finds its way into garbage bins and eventually to solid waste.

According to Lee County Government's website, nearly 1 million sharps enter the county's solid waste stream every year.

Lee County Solid Waste Department in cooperation with the Florida Department of Health in Lee County has a program in place to make sure the public is able to dispose of sharps and syringes properly.

According to Molly Schweers spokesperson at Lee County Solid Waste, the goal of the program is to protect solid waste workers and the general public.

"It's a wonderful program. Every single fire station in the county acts as both a red box pick-up and drop off site. It's basically an exchange program. We want to make sure that all residents have one. Proper disposal of syringes and sharps is so important," Schweers stressed.

A couple of incidents have already occurred this year due to improper disposals.

"There were a few incidents that occurred at our recycling facility. Someone had put sharps in a milk jug. These types of situations puts our workers in jeopardy, because if you get stuck with a sharp, you don't know what you have been exposed to," Schweers said.

According to Angela Smith, Administrator, Florida Department of Health in Lee County, inappropriately discarded needle pricks may lead to the transfer of infections such as: Hepatitis B Virus, Hepatitis C Virus and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

The same type of sharp disposal procedures are just as important for pet owners.

"When syringes used with pet medications are placed into the regular trash with household garbage and someone is stuck with the needle, there is no way for the individual to discern whether or not that syringe came from a diabetic pet or a human with an infectious disease such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. Not being able to determine the source of the needle will cause them to have to seek medical attention to ensure they do not contract HIV or hepatitis," Smith said.

Smith advises anyone who is stuck by a used needle or other type of sharp to do the following.

"If you experience a needle stick or sharps injury you should immediately wash the needle stick and cuts with soap and water and seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider will evaluate you to determine whether to prescribe post exposure prophylaxis to prevent them from contracting an infectious disease," Smith said.

All residents are asked to follow the proper procedures for the collection and disposal of syringes and sharps.

Proper sharps containers can be picked up at no charge at one of the following locations:

- All local fire districts and municipal fire stations

- Most Lee Health Hospital pharmacies

- Family Health Centers, 2256 Heitman St., Fort Myers

Sharps containers are also available for a small fee at most local pharmacies.

For more information on the proper disposal methods for syringes and sharps, visit



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